One of the key figures of the Charleston Renaissance, Anna Heyward Taylor is best known for her woodblock prints, executed both in brilliant color and dramatic black-and-white. Born to a distinguished South Carolina family, Taylor was educated privately before graduating from the South Carolina College for Women in 1897. Determined to be an artist, Taylor settled in New York City between 1900 and 1901, and sought training with the acclaimed artist and teacher, William Merritt Chase. Chase became an important early mentor, and Taylor joined his first education tours abroad to Holland and London in the summers of 1903 and 1904. Taylor returned to New York in 1906 to continue work with Chase and his associates; she then traveled to Pennsylvania to study during the summer with William Lathrop, a leading member of the noted impressionist art colony in New Hope.
Taylor soon embarked on a career that would combine teaching, study, and worldwide travel. Having already toured Europe extensively, she made a lengthy trip to the Far East in 1914. While abroad, she befriended Helen Hyde, an American who had been living in Japan for years creating traditional woodblock prints. Back in the United States in 1915, Taylor spent the summer in Provincetown, Massachusetts, where she was influenced by that colony's innovative group of printmakers.
The 1920s were a particularly productive period for Taylor, beginning with her exploration of exotic floral and plant designs in batiks. She exhibited widely and received favorable reviews in important art publications. Settling in Charleston in 1929, Taylor quickly became part of the flourishing regional art scene known as the Charleston Renaissance. Like other resident and visiting artists, she pursued images of local nature and culture, filtering these themes through her interest in Japanese design and technique. For the next several decades, she focused on watercolors and woodblock prints of Lowcountry subjects, including pastoral and urban landscapes, genre scenes, still lifes, and botanical studies.
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